Encouragement, perhaps the greatest motivator

Images: Pencils.

The world we live in is full to bursting with denigrators. I grew up with denigrators, I’ve battled them all my life, personally and professionally as a community and youth worker.

Life is hard enough and a thoughtful encouraging word is priceless. If we want people to grow and explore and find whatever rings their bell, they need encouragement and we need to set the bar as low as possible to encourage people, children and adults, to have a go.

There’s nothing clever about being a troll or an armchair critic, putting people down. That takes no one forward. It’s mean and nasty and pointless.

Let me tell the story of my life and the pencil. I don’t think most people appreciate what an exceptional precision instrument the humble pencil is.

As a child I couldn’t deal with colour, neither in pencils nor paint, but I was fascinated with the monochromatic lead pencil. To me it is the purest way of expressing light and form, unadulterated. But try to use one to draw for the first time and you quickly discover it is hard, so hard that most people give up almost before they even start.

I’ve heard people say, “I can’t even draw a straight line.” That breaks my heart. That, for me, is the ultimate expression of self defeat and all I want to do is hug them. It’s not the fact that they could buy a ruler, it’s that they are afraid, not just to have a go, but to persist.

I love pencils, as a child, my idea of heaven was looking at paper and pencils in stationary shops, yet I have never truly found the way for me to mentally unleash its hidden potential. At 70, I know the trick, the secret to unleashing potential. An hour a day. Do anything for an hour a day and you will unlock your potential. It absolutely WILL happen.

But there is another secret, find your encouragement, your inspirer, friend, companion, muse, group, tribe, teacher, counsellor, open hearted human being. As John Donne wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” Yet there, in his use of the generic, ‘man’, there is a barrier that women still haven’t fully breached and in that there is discouragement.

And yet here is another thing to love about the humble pencil, it is not gender specific (that would be so ridiculous), it is a classless, timeless and beautiful instrument.

And here’s my final thought on encouragement, everything is built on failure. There is not a doer, maker, inventor, creative artist, scientist, designer, human being, in the entire history of the world who has not succeeded, no matter how humble the endeavour, without pressing on through failure. From the day we are born, everything comes from trial, effort and not getting things right first time or even over many times, like children learning to walk and talk. Getting things wrong is the path to success and succeeding with the humble pencil is a battle royal with failure and disappointment and keeping at it requires effort in which support and encouragement is like manna from heaven.

I recall visiting friends whose daughter was studying for her exams, she came downstairs stressed out and sobbing her heart out and said to her Dad, “I need a hug.” That was one of the bravest moments I’ve ever witnessed and it reduced me to tears because she knew her need would be met. That is truly great parenting and she was restored and passed her exams.

It seems to me the whole world needs a hug, the most powerful expression of bonding, closeness and encouragement.

Keith Lindsay-Cameron aka KOG. 07 May 2021.

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